Ben Platt Talks New Album, 'The Politician' on Netflix and Acting With Gwyneth Paltrow (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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When you already have an Emmy, GRAMMY and Tony Award, all by the age of 25, you think one would kick back and relax. Not the case for performer Ben Platt, who’s about to have a very busy few months, thanks to the release of his debut album, Sing to Me Instead, which he’ll support with a 12-city tour starting in May; a supporting role in the new film, Drunk Parents, starring Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek, in theaters April 19; and his first starring TV role on Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series, The Politician, which debuts in September.
Having performed on screen and stage since the age of 9, Platt first garnered national attention for his supporting role as Benji in the first two Pitch Perfect films. What earned him his collection of trophies was the starring role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen, a runaway hit that won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Platt's emotionally raw presence onstage. The show even found fans in Beyonce, Demi Lovato, Hillary Clinton and Kerry Washington, who all went backstage to meet the actor during his run.
"It was sort of an avalanche of physical and mental and emotional challenges," Platt tells ET, "and it set me up to be really a lot more fearless than I was beforehand because that was such a wildly vulnerable experience."
Now Platt is channeling that into his new album, which he hopes will connect fans on another level. Sing to Me Instead is described as "very personal" by the performer, who hopes "it lives in the same world of Adele, Sam Smith, Carole King," singer-songwriters known for their soul-baring albums. The only way to achieve that, Platt says, "was to be as specific and as transparent as possible."
He adds, "I really didn't want to edit any part of the experience. So that applied to not shying away from talking about mortality, or my family, and also applied to not pretending that I'm not a queer person… I just tried to be as true to life as possible and let that inform and enhance the work as opposed to define it."
Showcasing another side of Platt is his upcoming starring role -- his first onscreen -- in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series, The Politician. He’s also executive producer alongside co-creators Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. The opportunity came about after Murphy saw Platt in Dear Evan Hansen. "He came to me to pitch me [The Politician]," the actor says, adding that as EP he got to "have a hand in crafting the ensemble."
The show, which debuts on Netflix Sept. 27, tells the story of a wealthy Santa Barbara, California, teenager, Payton Hobart (Platt), who has his sights on becoming the president of the United States. But until he graduates, he'll have to navigate his high school's treacherous political landscape to get elected student body president and secure a spot at Harvard.
The first season sees Payton "grappling with his ambition versus his lack of empathy and his struggles with whether or not he might have an inability to see other people's feelings in the face of his own goals," Platt says. "It was a very fascinating character to get to play after playing someone so sort of mild-mannered as Evan. To play someone that's a bit more conniving and self-centered and conceited was a fun challenge."
The all-star ensemble includes Gwyneth Paltrow as Payton’s mom, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Judith Light, Zoey Deutch, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban and Platt’s Dear Evan Hansen co-star, Laura Dreyfuss. "The cast is just out of this world," Platt says. "[It’s] insane to be among them and let alone to lead them was a dream."
When it came to working with Paltrow in particular, Platt recalls a "pinch me" moment when the two were doing a scene in a bedroom and "it felt like I was talking to my mom." He adds that because she’s been focused on her lifestyle brand, Goop, it’s easy to "forget what an incredible actor she is… and when I got to set with her and we started acting together, I was just reminded [that] this is one of the greats."